Moral Versus Economic Incentives For Knowledge Sharing

I have been reading Freakonomics over the past week and am intrigued by the author’s comparison of moral and economic incentives.One of the examples that stands out is understanding the motivation behind blood donations.The reasearch discovered that when people are given a small stipend for donating blood rather than being praised for their altruism they tend to donate less blood. Is there something to learn from this while designing incentive schemes for Knowledge sharing and collaboration. They go on to ask an interesting question:

What if blood donors had been offered $50, or $500, or $5000?Surely the number of donors would have increased dramatically?”

But then, they speak about the “dark side” of such incentives as well. Quoting from the book:
If a pint of blood were suddenly worth $5000 dollars….They might literally steal blood at knife point.They might pass off pig blood as their own.

While incentivizing knowledge sharing and collaboration it is important to find the “golden mean” if you will. Ideally we need to build schemes that rely on peer recognition and self-satisfaction. This needs to be augmented with more tangible incentives that are neither too less or too much. Too much of reliance on tangible incentives would mean people may steal knowledge and credit . Too less of it may dampen the inherent willingness of people to contribute. Are there moral incentives or disincentives for people to share knowledge is an important question. I also feel if economic incentives are a side effect of more sustainable moral incentives there is a better chance that the scheme may work. For instance, if you were to make heroes out of people who exhibit the right kind of knowledge sharing behaviour, this may improve their visibility in the organization and give them a feeling of having been recognized(moral incentive). This in turn may lead to quicker promotions, better career path etc., which have direct economic incentives. Economic incentives need to build on the more sustainable moral incentives.


2 thoughts on “Moral Versus Economic Incentives For Knowledge Sharing

  1. Hi Dinesh ! I have thoroughly enjoyed your weblog post and have expanded further on it in my own weblog adding some further commentary on striking a balance for extrinsic and intrinsic motivators when sharing knowledge. Here is the link to it.

  2. Hi Dinesh,This complain is not about your content, which I fully second. And I really like your style of writing.But please, can you explain to me why your page is establishing a permanent data exchange with constant data flow between your server and my local browser.Regards,Rainer

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